The 5th All-Ukrainian Local Council of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is commented by Natalia Shevchuk, Head of the Memorial Foundation of His Beatitude Metropolitan Methodios, First Assistant to the Primate of the UAOC
I will not try to hide it: the Council not only frustrated me. It made me sad. A paradox, but I did not see real counciliarity at this Council. It was not an all-Ukrainian Council in its nature and ideology. Rather, it could be called an extended gathering of the Lviv diocese. Long time ago Metropolitan Macarius presented himself as a regional leader. But the Primate of the Church should not be a “regional leader.” He should be above the interests of his diocese and his region. A quite speaking detail: Metropolitan Macarius did not suggest a common prayer for the repose of the souls of the late Primates of the UAOC – the Most Holy Patriarchs Mstyslav and Dimitrios and the Hi Beatitude Metropolitan Methodios. I understand that Metropolitan Macarius was to a certain extent an opponent to the Most Blessed Metropolitan Methodios. But a council is exactly a church mechanism meant to overcome contradictions. And if at the Council convened three months after Bishop Methodios’ death we do not hear a prayer for the repose of his soul, it is a shame; it is a verdict for our ecclesiasticism.
The Most Blessed Metropolitan Methodios left his spiritual testament. Among other things, there he suggested a rather interesting idea: not to elect the Head of the Church anymore, but to elect the Head of the Synod. What is the difference here? As a basis Bishop Methodios assumed the experience of the Orthodox Church in Greece. It does not have a Primate in a usual sense of the word. Instead, they have a Synodal form of governance and the Head of the Synod. In this way the Church of Greece emphasizes its connection with the Constantinople Patriarch, whom all Greeks perceive as their spiritual father. At the Local Council of the UAOC once again we appealed to Constantinople to admit us into its structure so that we could exercise our rights as a Metropolis. However, the bishops did not want to consider the suggestion of the late Primate of the UAOC. Why? I think it is because of the magic of the post of the Primate. But is there really an urgent necessity to elect the Primate of the UAOC? Do we have many bishops? There are about 80 bishops in the UOC MP. The UOC KP has about 45. And the UAOC? Nine. That is nine times less than in the UOC and five times less than in the UOC KP. What kind of a Bishops’ Council is that if it is composed of nine bishops? In fact it is an analogue of the Synod in the UOC and the UOC KP. Then would it not be logical to act in a more modest way, i.e. to introduce a synodal system of management? I understand that I am no hierarch, and that I am a woman… But excuse me, is our Church a property of nine bishops? Is it not the tradition of counciliarism that makes the UAOC different from other Churches?.. I want to emphasize that I am only speaking about the expediency of discussing the suggestions of Metropolitan Methodios’ Testament at the Council. They could have been rejected. They could have been acknowledged as not useful for the UAOC today. But they were worthy of being discussed…
And now I will touch upon the Appeal of our Synod to the President of Ukraine. The Most Blessed Methodios always taught us to have respect for the state. Meanwhile, here we have a very sharp appeal. An appeal which accuses the Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Administration of “blackmailing” and “threat.” And it was adopted on the second day of the Council’s work, when a significant part of the delegates, almost one half of them, had already left… Of course, the state should not put pressure on the Church. This is an axiom. But the Church does not have a moral right to communicate with the state in such a, God forgive me, caddish voice… I am a believer of the UAOC. I am very worried about the history and the present of our Church. But I am also a citizen of the Ukrainian state. And it hurts me when the dignity of my state is being debased. Cannot we learn to act in a civilized way? Could not we write those church documents in a prudent and skillful way, without emotions and offences?
Finally, the stand of the new Primate towards the unification with the Kyiv Patriarchate remains unclear to me. Yesterday Metropolitan Macarius said that there was no greater adherent of the unity with Patriarch Filaret than him. Today the Council adopted rather harsh declarations concerning Kyiv Patriarchate. Why then did you accuse the late Metropolitan Methodios of “blocking” the dialogue with the UOC KP a while ago? May Metropolitan Macarius forgive me, but I expected and I expect of a Primate to be much more consistent. One should not imagine that we live in a “third world” country. Our economic state is, softly speaking, joyless. But our priests and our laity – they live under new circumstances. They watch TV, they take information from the Internet. And what do they see there, what do they read? Yesterday Bishop Macarius was ‘for,’ and today he is, in essence, ‘against’ unification. And what should a priest tell people? That everything has changed in a two months time? That the moon fell down on earth? That Patriarch Filaret turned from the angel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into its demon? When the Primate is inconsistent, it is a big problem for priests and the flock.
The stand of our new church management towards the dialogue with the UOC also remains unclear. Metropolitan Macarius announced that he had received a proposal to meet with Metropolitan Onuphrius. He also announced that he would meet Metropolitan Onuphrius in order to persuade him to drift apart from Moscow. Excuse me, but I have a question: does Metropolitan Macarius follow the events in the UOC? Does he know that Metropolitan Onuphrius constantly says that the UOC cannot drift apart from Moscow?! Church diplomacy is incompatible with populist statements. It is clear that Metropolitan Onuphrius is not going to drift apart from Moscow now. With the same success one can offer Patriarch Cyril to “drift apart” from Moscow. Therefore, other proposal should be made. Which ones? Bishop Evstratiy said at the Council that that day he got an impression that the real opponent of the UAOC was not the Moscow but the Kyiv Patriarchate … And now recall the stand of the late Metropolitan Methodios, whom the current head of the UAOC almost accused of «Moscowphilia». It is clear that the dialogue with both the Kyiv and the Moscow Patriarchate is needed. But a church dialogue should not be conducted in a populist style. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the style of the statements of Metropolitan Macarius somewhat resembles the patriotic populism of the leader of the “Radical Party” Oleh Liashko… It is true that Bishop Macarius is a frank and emotional person. But as the Head of the Church he also needs to be prudent, to be an analyst…
I do not have a personal account on facebook. However, yesterday my friends read me the following remark by a religious expert: “To me the UOAC resembles a spinster, and the UOC KP is like a colonel in the prime of his life. Of course, marriage is possible here. But there are more and more questions whether the UOC KP really needs that.” I am not in the “fan sector” of Patriarch Filaret. But I feel ashamed when my Church is called a “spinster.” It hurts when the image of my church goes down so rapidly.
To conclude, I would like to say the following. Metropolitan Macarius only does his first steps as a Primate. And we do not have a moral right to put on him the fullness of the responsibility for the contemporary state of the Church. However, he should understand that the time of “personal projects” in the Church is already in the past. We do not need a Church of a “leader cult” style. Our society demands transparency and responsibility.
Finally, I will say a few words to justify Metropolitan Macarius. Everyone expected that our Church would be headed by Bishop Andrew. He is the eldest according to the order of ordinations, and he enjoys greatest authority among the hierarchs of the UAOC. However, for some reasons Bishop Andrew refused from primacy decisively. These are the conditions under which Metropolitan Macarius was elected. Therefore, may God give strength to the new Primate of the UAOC so that he is worthy of his high post, and so that he could adequately react to criticism to his address, both from the side of the society and from within the UAOC.